Sunday, March 29, 2009

Taking a step back in time...

I would imagine most everyone has some kind of food that immediately takes them back to their childhood or to a certain place and time. I have a few food that do that to me, but so far, none so much as what I made last night for dinner. Maybe it's because I haven't had them in years - or maybe it's because some of the people I associate with this food aren't around - either way, it was amazing how just a few ingredients brought me back 15-20 years in just one bite.

So what is this amazing food? Something probably few people are familiar with - galumpkies (or Polish cabbage rolls).

I'm not Polish, but my great aunt married a Polish man and, being the good 1950s wife that she was, she learned to cook all of his favorite foods. She shared those foods with the family and soon, a tradition of galumpkies on nearly every holiday began. Others in the family took to making them at other times, too. I can remember my great grandmother making them once for dinner - but she burned the cabbage and the house smelled awful. Even with all the windows open, I was begging my mother to leave. Oh what I would give for another dinner with my Nana - even if it was burnt cabbage.

My great aunt is still with us, but is in ailing health, so we haven't had galumpkies at a family event in ages. A few weeks ago, I was discussing Easter plans with my mom and it dawned on me how wonderful it would be to bring that tradition back. So my mom dug up the old recipe, written on a scratch of paper in Grandma's hand. I can remember Grandma sitting at the table with those scratches of paper and crossword puzzles in front of her, smiling and smoking away, my Nana (her mother) seated to her right, my Grandpa seated at the other end of the table. They always sat in the same spots and the scene was like a comfortable blanket - wrapping me in warmth. Again, what I would give to sit at that table one more time.

I knew the galumpkies would bring us all back there - at least for a moment. But before I committed to cooking them for a crowd of 20 (or more), I wanted to make sure I could do at least a small batch with the same authenticity I remember. So I set about making them for dinner last night. It's a long process - but the results were worth it. With my first bite, I was taken back to Grandma's kitchen at Christmas, trying to get a galumpkie out of the foil pan when I was barely as tall as the stove the pan was sitting on.

Maybe galumpkies won't have quite the same awe for you as they do for me, but they're still a tasty treat, so I wanted to share. Here's the ages old family recipe:

Galumpkies (Polish cabbage rolls)


1 lb. ground beef
1 c. cooked white rice
1 head cabbage
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 1/2 c. water
salt, pepper, garlic powder
1/2 link kielbasa

Core cabbage and place in a stockpot full of water. Bring to a boil and cook 10-15 minutes until outer leaves of cabbage have started to soften. Peel off the outer leaves and place in a colander. Continue boiling the remaining cabbage, checking it every 5 minutes or so to see if you can peel off additional leaves. (I needed 9 large leaves for this batch. You would need more if you stuff less filling in each one.)
Once you have the desired number of leaves, you can discard any remaining cabbage (or use it for another boiled cabbage recipe).
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix the tomato soup and water together. Spread a small amount (a couple of tablespoons) over the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.
In a medium sized bowl, make the filling by combining the ground beef (raw) and rice. Add a few dashes each of salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Add up to 1/2 c. of the soup mixture to the beef and rice mixture to get it to hold together.
To stuff the cabbage rolls, cup one of the boiled leaves in your hand and spoon in about 1/4 c. of filling (the exact amount doesn't matter - you just want a generously stuffed leaf that you can still fold over on itself).
Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling and place seam-side down in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.
Repeat until all leaves are stuffed.
Cut kielbasa into slices and tuck between the cabbage rolls.
Pour the remaining tomato soup and water mixture over the top.
Cover with foil and bake at 300 degrees for 4 hours. (Alternatively, you can bake at 200 degrees for 8 hours - but I don't know anyone who wants the oven on for 8 hours!)


LK- Healthy Delicious said...

Its funny... my grandparents are polish and I never even heard of a galupki until I was about 18. My husband (Irish) loved them though and has been eating them since he was a kid!

Tangled Noodle said...

These are the best recipes - so closely tied with loved ones and treasured memories! I love cabbage rolls, introduced to me by my father-in-law who makes a Croatian version. These look wonderful!